Chalon Way Car Park

View from Chalon Way Car Park, St.Helens approx 1977.

Taken on a Saturday morning walk from the photo department of the Gamble Institute. Given freedom (and film) to walk around town and document what we saw. I headed to the multi-storey car park and photographed Pilkington Glass works next to St.Helens town centre.

Looking down I thought it also worthwhile at the ground based car  park at the rear of the multi-storey. Of interest is the oil patches on the unoccupied bays, cars in the 1970s all seemed to slowly leak oil as part of their functioning.

School show

Even Latin Masters could show their funny side when on stage at the school show.
Cowley boys school, St.Helens, later 1970s.

Substitute teacher

Cowley High School. Mixed 6th form class sometime between 1978 and 1980. Our master was away so we got to revise our coursework as the substitute teacher carried on reading his paper (no doubt lifted from his break period in the staff room).

No talking at the back of the class.

French lesson in progress, Crowley boys school 1977 or 1978. Unseen by the teacher I got out my Zenith E camera and took a few shots. The shutter was loud so I’m not sure how I managed to take more than one before the teacher noticed but there are two adjacent negatives rather than one.

I generally sat at the back of the class to avoid being noticed too much by the teachers. Not that I was up to no good, I just didnt think of myself as academic. Taking photographs seemed meaningful though my activities seemed not to really register with others. I’m glad I took the picture as I dont think there are many images of live classrooms from the period, true documentary.

A later documentary project of a Nottingham school allowed me to take similar images of a real life lessons in a private boys school but the difference was I was there as an outsider and conspicuous, here I was part of the scene.

As a school boy

Taken in the Photography Studio at the Gamble Institute in the later 1970s. This was one of the very first portraits I took and is of another attendee at the Saturday Morning Photography classes that the Gamble Institute ran.
I was not meant to be there as I was too young to be on the course (approx 15), my school friend Ian Griffiths managed to blag us both onto the course by stretching the truth a little.
The Pepsi commercial line written on the blackboard dates from 1974 but this may have been taken between 1975 -1977 when the unusual nature of the commercial still inspired wannabe creatives..


Going through a collection of images that is up to four decades old has been interesting. Not so much for the images as the response they generate from others.

When I post an image from the past onto a related Facebook page it encourages people to compare and contrast a particular scene or atmosphere with today. Nostalgia of course is pervasive and some people will compare the present poorly against the past.

A little rarer but still present are people who look back on the past as not a good place, perhaps they were going through some bad things at the time.

I cannot control the narrative or response to a particular image but I can present a variety of images that show some of the less than ideal realities of the time. This abandoned and burn out car is on the newly redeveloped linear park near Haydock, Merseyside. At the time the earth movers had reformed the landscape to be a place for enjoyment and relaxation. It was also a convenient place for some to dispose of things that were no longer useful.

Taken in approx 1977 on a Lubitel II TLR camera.


Pilkington Glass Works, Burtonhead Road, St.Helens. 2017. Not film, Panasonic G7

CB Radio in the 1970s

Whilst still at school I worked on Saturday mornings at Fishwicks in Haydock. This was a camera store and I served customers at the counter. This chap also had a part time job there and we got on well as we were both into the analogue technology of the time.

After work I went round to see his Citizens Band radio setup and I took a few frames.  CB was the social network of the day, a chance to chat to friends in the area or talk to passing traffic, usually lorries (not usually in Convoy). In the days when British Telecom had a monopoly on telephones it must have been very liberating to talk as long as you wanted without per minute charges.

Like Facebook there was an etiquette to using the equipment, moving chat to different channels and not interrupting people etc. I never got into CB myself but liked the idea.

Rig confirmed to be a Colt 320 FM “Black Shadow SSB”, many thanks to the Facebook community for the details.

35mm Ilford HP5 film, 400ASA.

As a 14 year old

An image from my very first self processed roll of film, possibly the first film I used in my Zenith E as I took up photography as a 14 year old schoolboy.

Not a particularly striking image but it does show my interest in detail and quiet scenes. Now that I have digitized a reasonable number of images for the site I’m starting to see patterns and themes reoccurring throughout my work. The accepted wisdom is that a photographer improves over time but I’m not so sure now, there are images the 14,15 or 16 year old me had taken that I feel I would not want to change even a little bit.

The Wasteland

No, not a shot of a failed Mars Lander.

Abandoned carcass of a black and white valve TV set, possible early 1960s vintage. Photo approx 1976/7. Taken in St.Helens on some wasteland, possibly after some street demolition. This shot reminded me that I used to enjoy taking the backs off old TVs to poke around and see how they worked, surprised I’m still alive thinking about it now.

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Ray French

Friday 21st April 1978, quite a busy day for me, shortly after taking the class pictures in the quad at Cowley boys school I photographed Ray French demonstrating rugby techniques. This was for a book he was writing on the subject.

Mr French was my English teacher (not to be confused with my French teacher who was Irish ). Before being a teacher Ray French was a top level rugby player (both codes) as well as subsequent work as a BBC radio commentator for the sport. He has a wikipedia page here.

Other pictures from this session were to be my first published work in book form, my only previous published work being a news item in the local paper.

End of school portraits

Taken after the class photos on Friday 21st April 1978. One day after receiving the O level exam timetable.
Changes were coming, one last chance to record the time.